Have you ever thought, ‘If only I had known then what I know now?’ I find myself at that place often, and the only thing I know to do with that is to share what I have learned, in hopes it would help others. So, here is what I’d offer to others experiencing the journey of infertility:
Written by Guest Blogger: Mollie Walker, co-founder of Tennessee Fertility Advocates.
You are your own advocate.
Physically and mentally… When it comes to our bodies, no one knows them better than we do. When something is off, our intuition lets us know. Sometimes we suppress it – hoping things will automatically improve – and sometimes we listen and act. I knew early on in my infertility journey that something was not working right. I found myself seeking advice from only one OB/GYN, and the phrases “just relax and it will happen” or “stop stressing” replay constantly in my mind. Knowing what I know now, I would have advocated harder for myself and sought out a second opinion earlier in my journey. I would have researched more about my symptoms and found someone who took the time to listen and help me. I cannot ovulate on my own, so the phrase “just relax and it will happen” wasn’t helpful. After finally getting pregnant with my first child, I decided to switch doctors. When I met my current OB/GYN, Dr. Jason Williams at MOGA, I knew I found someone who “got it,” and I finally felt like I had a doctor in my corner and same with Dr. Amelia Bailey at Fertility Associates of Memphis.
It’s also important to take ownership of our mental health. Years of infertility, month after month of bad news, and the trauma from multiple miscarriages was a lot emotionally, and took a toll on me mentally. From the outside, you wouldn’t have known, but inside I was struggling hard. Admitting I needed to see a therapist was the best thing I have ever done for myself. I have no shame in that and pray you don’t either. You can’t take care of anyone else until you take care of yourself.
Your story matters.
Often, I think we minimize the power of our stories. I believe God allowed me to walk the difficult path of infertility for a reason. Even though it was extremely hard, I wouldn’t change it because it led me to where I am today with advocacy work and Tennessee Fertility Advocates. There is so much power in your journey. The moment we stop comparing our journey to others and own it, we find freedom. If you haven’t written your story down, don’t delay another day. Allow yourself to feel all the feelings, and remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Revise and edit as things change; however, start with owning your story even if you are the only one who sees it for now. The moment I started publicly sharing about my infertility journey, a weight was lifted. More and more people told me that they too experienced infertility and/or miscarriage. I started feeling like I wasn’t as alone as I thought I was. While I would encourage sharing your story, give yourself grace if you are there yet. Writing it down on paper is extremely helpful regardless of where you find yourself with sharing openly.
Advocate for insurance coverage for infertility.
Have you had to take out a loan or max out a credit card to get treatment for your disease of infertility? Did you have to fundraise for the chance at building a family? Did you sell a car or house to have extra money to put towards IVF? The bottom line is: no one should have to do any of those things to treat their disease. If your employer’s health insurance plan does not offer infertility coverage, speak up and share your story. Do your research first. For example, find out who the benefits director is at your employer. Are they local, or do they work remote? Meet with them, arrange a call or draft an email with your story (include a picture), and ask if they are willing to explore coverage. You simply want the opportunity to build your family and receive treatment for your disease. It helps to have a compelling story – as I mentioned earlier – so you are ready to share with your employer. Find colleagues who are willing to speak up as well. The more that ask for coverage, the better. Plus, there are benefits for employers who choose to offer infertility coverage, including increased employee retention and improved workplace culture. For more information on advocating at work, check out these helpful resources.
Don’t stop at just your employer, look for advocacy groups in your state. If there aren’t any that you know of, start one! If you are in a state where legislation is being introduced, GET INVOLVED. Do your research. Organizations such as Fertility Within Reach have incredible information online regarding ways to increase access to fertility treatment and benefits at the state and employer levels. Reach out to your House Representative and Senator to share your story. Give your pain a purpose, and advocate for yourself and all those to come.
I wish had known some of these things many years ago, but am hopeful this helps others navigate their journeys. Don’t lose hope. Keep fighting for yourself and your family. It is not easy, but I promise it is worth it.
For more information, go to www.tnfertilityadvocates.com.
Mollie is the co-founder of Tennessee Fertility Advocates. She is a proud alumni of the University of Memphis, member of Harvest Church, and currently serves as the Collierville City Executive at Landmark Community Bank. She is also actively active in the Collierville Chamber, Collierville Rotary, and a member of the Generosity Network. She is the wife to Taylor and a proud mother of two beautiful children but the road to having them wasn’t easy. With no insurance coverage, years of trying to conceive, and two miscarriages it felt overwhelming and hopeless at times. Now she advocates passionately for others that the disease of infertility would be covered by insurance in the state of TN so the financial barrier is removed and allows more couples the opportunity to conceive their own children.
P.S. Catch this week’s episode of The Hormone P.U.Z.Z.L.E Podcast – Advocating for Your Fertility Rights With Mollie Walker.